Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Between Heaven and Earth - The Relics of Gods by Yeyu

Between Heaven and Earth: Book One 
What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?


Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Date of Publication: January 6th, 2015

What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time, and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

The special touch of the Oriental Fantasy

Most of the time, authors write what they know. 

Lo and behold! I also happen to be writing what I know as well…except what I know is Chinese culture. Sort of. 

Let me first rewind a little to explain why I chose to write a fantasy fiction set in historical China. Japanese manga, which is primarily created for a Japanese audience, is being enjoyed by people all over the world, and I am jealous. I am envious of how many people have learned about Japanese culture through anime/manga, and in contrast there aren’t many stories depicting Chinese culture that are available in English. I mean, I’m pretty proud of my own culture—the culture, not history, has been accumulated from about 6000 years of (supposedly) unbroken history, which means I have a wealth of material to draw upon. Thus, I set out to write stories set in ancient China with the grand vision of sharing my culture with others. Having written a wuxia/palace fic (for the lack of better word) and an alternate history fic, this time, I chose to write a Chinese (Daoist) (epic) historical fantasy. 

Since I spent over half my childhood overseas, I can’t say what I write is completely Chinese, but my story, “the Relics of Gods”, is inseparable from Chinese culture. It is completely reliant on existing Chinese mythology, folklore, cosmology, metaphysics, and so on—even the magical system I used is more or less based on Chinese metaphysics, you know, with the typical ying yang and five elements stuff. Additionally, the story is a historical set in Ming Dynasty China, so the entire history of China is the story’s background. Even the way I tell the story—up to the atmosphere and stylistic choice of the cover—is quite Chinese. I’m writing a story I may as well publish to the Chinese fiction community for an almost entirely ethnic Chinese audience. Of course, I do take some liberties and invent some of my own stuff, but that doesn’t change the fact that my story is completely reliant on Chinese culture. 

In terms of plot and perspective, however, I think there is a mixture of Chinese and Western-influences, which has to do with my personal experience. I don’t take the usual plot route with my story. 

I think one of the more interesting (to me) differences my story will have with Western fantasy is the cultural value. 

Becoming a god or an immortal? Usually a blasphemous ambition in Western fantasy, often depicted as something only arrogant and evil villains would aspire to. Well, in Chinese culture, this aspiration is quite acceptable indeed. The Yellow Emperor, for example, was supposedly the first human who became a god in mythical history, and he is considered the father of all Han Chinese people so he has a special place in terms of ancestor worship. A big branch of Daoism is all about achieving immortality, as Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts have their roots in the desire to achieve immortality. Thus, good things came out of this lofty goal. 

Moreover, Chinese also worship many humans as gods—Guan Yu, for example, is this dude back in the Three Kingdoms period and pretty much revered as a god by all religious Daoists even today. What is so blasphemous about another human becoming a god? Nothing, as long as you don’t harm innocent people in your quest. This may contrast with what Western cultures are familiar with, because even with polytheistic Greek mythology and Norse mythology I don’t have any impressions of any of them featuring humans becoming gods or being worshipped as gods. Westerners are used to having a clear line drawn between gods and humans, while in Daoism the line is a bit blurred. 

I have to add, however, that even though I heavily rely on Chinese culture, I think readers who are looking forward to reading about an “exotic”, new world would be a little disappointed, depending what they were hoping to read. I am writing about something I am familiar with and sharing what I know with those who are interested in learning about it (I can’t claim to be completely accurate of course). I am not writing this story to tell readers how different my culture is from a Western one, not “introducing” readers to an “exotic” world. So, even though the entire story is probably a big bag of culture, you won’t find me going into all the cultural details. 

In fact, I probably don’t spend enough time explaining things, even though the mythology & cosmology is practically the story’s backbone. Since I do hope to educate somewhat, I would go out of my way to include certain elements and explanations I probably would not have included if I wrote the story in Chinese, but I have this nagging worry that readers unfamiliar with Chinese culture will find it difficult to keep up with the story or immerse themselves in it. 

Well, stereotypes have some truth to them. I think we all secretly wish we were kung fu masters, so we get pissed off if you ask us if we know kung fu and we don’t.

Personally, I take all the cultural concepts I’ve used for granted, so I just use it without thinking much since many elements I’ve used are pretty much a shared cultural property you’d find in most Chinese Daoist fantasies. I’ve researched, and hell did I research my ass off to check my facts, but I end up not going in depth about many things. I just mention what I think readers need to know at the moment but might not know, and then I move on. I keep hoping this is enough for readers who aren’t familiar with Chinese culture, and that they can still enjoy the story, but I am not sure. Non-Chinese readers have not really complained to me about how the lack of prior knowledge detracts from their enjoyment of the story, but I always wonder how the story would read to those who aren’t even vaguely familiar with Chinese cultural concepts. 

For example, the concept of feng shui should be something non-Chinese have heard of before, so I don’t even bother explaining what it is. Yet what if readers don’t know what feng shui is or how Chinese have used feng shui? 

Chinese invented the compass just to study feng shui of the world around them

Feng shui was used since 4000 BCE, where it was used to orient architectures such as homes and tombs. There is good/lucky feng shui and bad/unlucky feng shui, so it is considered important to build architectures at places with good feng shui and adhere to good feng shui practices. Even today, businessmen in my country prefer to choose offices with good feng shui. They don’t necessarily believe it, but they’d rather not take the risk of disregarding the feng shui of their office. 

By the way, feng shui (風水, literally wind-water) is thought to the metaphysical architecture of how this mysterious and invisible force called qi (氣) binds things together in the universe. Qi is considered the life-force of the universe. Confused already? 

Well, there is more. 

Feng shui uses the concepts of ying/yang and the eight trigrams (also known as bagua). The trigrams themselves are derived from astronomy, and there are 64 combinations of bagua in total, which is used for general divination. The origin of bagua get a bit mythological and I somewhat touch upon it in my book, but everything I mentioned so far is implicit knowledge pretty much every ethnic Chinese who grew up with the culture would know. Unless they have been somehow living under a rock. 

In my story, however, I don’t really go into detail on how feng shui actually works because admittedly I myself don’t understand it. It is too cryptic so you’d have to spend years studying it, and I’d probably still mess it up—not many ethnic Chinese really understand how feng shui works, either, since I think the knowledge was purposefully shrouded in mystery. You could write a thick book just on feng shui, but in general feng shui was not that central to my story; it was something I casually mentioned and integrated. 

There are, of course, more cultural and historical things I use just like I did with feng shui, but that was just an example of how Chinese culture plays into the story. 

All in all, I know I am not the most skilled English writer out there, but I hope my writing weaknesses won’t be annoying enough to detract from most readers’ enjoyment of the story. Ideally, readers unfamiliar with Chinese culture and are looking for something different will enjoy the “freshness” (I hope it’s fresh to them anyway) Chinese culture has brought to the story, and they’ll also learn a bit about the culture. It would also be great if ethnic Chinese who can’t read Chinese but are fans of things like wuxia would identify with the story and appreciate seeing elements they are familiar with. 

Thanks for reading my longwinded ramblings, and I’d also like to thank Mythical Books for giving me a spot for a guest post J

About the author:
Yeyu wrote her first story when she was 7, and she has been creating stories on-and-off ever since, be it writing fanfiction or drawing original manga. She finally ventured into writing original fiction in high school, and stuck with the form. 

Most of Yeyu’s childhood was spent overseas, but by the age of 16 she moved back to the small East Asian island most commonly known as Taiwan, where she was born. 

When Yeyu isn’t writing in her spare time, she is probably reading, gaming, or sleeping. No cats, sadly. 


joe hawk said...

I love the cover looks awesome you did a wonderful job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting & thanks, Joe :)
Reese Dante was very patient with me and did a great job making my ideal cover XD

SLOW-D said...

Congrats, the cover looks great. Thank you for the opportunity

Hope101 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hope101 said...

Yeyu is my favorite independent author, so I'm glad that her stories are getting more exposure.

Anna Barlow said...

Great post and giveaway! Ty <3

Dreamer Bookslover said...

Thank you for this lovely chance to win and I really like the book cover :)

JillW said...

I really enjoyed this post. I know very little about Chinese culture; you've made it very interesting here. I am looking forward to reading your book.

John Thuku said...

Thank you for hosting. What an interesting excerpt.

Anonymous said...

Sounds really interesting and unique. I like m/m fantasy, but haven't really read anything like this before. Thanks for sharing:)

Jen said...

Sounds like a great story and I love the cover. Thanks for the post and contest!

SusieQ_too said...

Awesome post, thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

It's a fascinating post, and I've loved all the Dreamspinner books I've read so far...

ShirleyAnn said...

Wow that was a really interesting post the pictures were wonderful. The books sounds very intriguing I'm adding it to my wishlist.


patrick siu said...

I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

Tempestt Patterson said...

Sounds very interesting. Can't wait to read it!

Cyndi F said...

First I would love to say I love the sounds of your book!! And you make some great points. I have not read your books so I can't say about understanding everything however I can say that I would not have known what feng shui was. I ask a couple of friends just to see if this was just me and they did not know either, so I love reading books that take place in other countrys, or made up places, I do like to understand things, maybe you could put a glossy of terms at the front or back if you don't want to put it in the story, like some authors do, to help those of us who may to be fimaliar with these terms, I may not watch a movie like this, but would love a book, so I may not be as good with terms and things as others, my husband is from another country and take for granted sometimes what is everyday things for us that others know, even things that we can't believe people don't no. Your book sounds amazing thou and will be checking it out!!! Thanks for the giveaway

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interest everyone :D

@Cyndi F:
There is a glossary at the back of the book and some front matter (e.g. character name list), though I didn't include explanations for feng shui in it orz
If you do happen to read the book in the end, I apologize beforehand if I end up confusing the hell out of you QAQ

ash l. said...

I would love to read this. I like how you talk about culture.

ardent.ereader said...

Love your book, congrats on the book. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the chance!

Thomas Murphy said...

sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway.

rounder9834 @yahoo.com

gemiinii said...

Thanks for the giveaway